Contact:  Sandy Adkins
Communications Specialist
National Center for State Courts
757.259.1515
 

Most states require judges to step down after 70

Williamsburg, Va. (April 5, 2010)  As he approaches his 90th birthday, U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is said to be considering retirement. However, if he were a state Supreme Court justice, he would not have a decision to make. Most all states have a mandatory retirement age in the 70s.

Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia require judges to retire at ages ranging from 70 to 90, with the average being 72. Vermont is the only state that allows a judge to remain on the bench until age 90. The other 31 states and the District of Columbia mandate judges retire sometime in their 70s.

If the states' rules were in place today for the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Stevens and fellow justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer would be in forced retirement.

The following chart shows a breakdown of how many states would allow the sitting U.S. Supreme Court justices to remain on the bench based on current laws. 

 

Date of birth

Current age

Number of states & D.C. where he/she would still be on the bench

John G. Roberts

1/27/55

55.2

51

John Paul Stevens

4/20/20

89.9

19

Antonin Scalia

3/11/36

74.0

25

Anthony Kennedy

7/23/36

73.7

27

Clarence Thomas

6/23/48

61.8

51

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

3/15/33

77.0

19

Stephen Breyer

8/15/38

71.6

31

Samuel Alito

4/1/50

60

51

Sonia Sotomayor

6/25/54

55.8

51

Source: U.S. Supreme Court, Biographies of Current Justices of the Supreme Court

The following chart lists the states that currently have a mandatory retirement age for their Supreme Court judges.

State

Mandatory retirement age for state’s highest court

Alabama

70

Alaska

70

Arizona

70

Colorado

72

Connecticut

70

District of Columbia

74

Florida

70

Hawaii

70

Illinois

75

Indiana

75

Iowa

72

Kansas1

75

Louisiana

70

Maryland

70

Massachusetts

70

Michigan2

70

Minnesota

70

Missouri

70

New Hampshire

70

New Jersey

70

New York

70

North Carolina

72

Ohio

70

Oregon

75

Pennsylvania

70

South Carolina

72

South Dakota

70

Texas3

74

Utah

75

Vermont

90

Virginia

70

Washington

75

Wyoming

70

Source: State Court Organization, 2004; Gavel to Gavel
Notes:
1 Justice may serve out the term during which he or she turns 75.
2 Justice may serve to age 75. He or she may not begin a term beyond age 70.
3 Justice may serve out the term during which he or she turns 74, via 2007 constitutional amendment.

In 2009, Kansas increased the age at which their justices must retire from 70 to 75 and South Dakota’s House of Representatives also approved an increase from 70 to 75. This year, several states are considering increasing or doing away with their mandatory age requirements.

The following chart shows the status of pending state legislation related to mandatory judicial retirement age.

State

Current age

Proposed change

Bill number

Status

Alabama

70

72

HB 537

Approved by House Judiciary 3/25/2010

Arizona

70

75

SCR 1040

Approved by Senate 3/3/2010; approved by House Judiciary Committee 3/25/2010

Massachusetts

70

76

HB 1640

House Judiciary Committee recommended passage 5/4/2009

New Hampshire

70

Eliminate

CACR 21

Voted “inexpedient to legislate” by House 2/17/2010

New Jersey

70

75

ACR 70 & AB 611

In committee

New York

70

Eliminate

SB 6254

In committee

Virginia

70

73

SB 206

Approved by full Senate; died in House committee

Washington

75

Eliminate

HJR 4216 & HB 2489

In committee

Wyoming

70

Eliminate

HJR 4 & HB 37

Approved by full House; killed by Senate 2/26/10

 

 

The NCSC Backgrounder is designed to provide the media with statistics and facts related to current issues of interest.

The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation's state courts.